Dr. Heather Sparling Named D’Arcy McGee Beacon Fellow at Dundalk Institute for Technology

International Women’s Day is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. This International Women’s Day, and every day, we are proud to highlight the work and accomplishments by inspiring women that surround us here at CBU, like Dr. Heather Sparling, CBU’s Associate Professor of Ethnomusicology Literature, Folklore and the Arts. Dr. Sparling is also a Canada Research Chair in Music Traditions and was most recently named a D’Arcy McGee Beacon Fellow at Dundalk Institute for Technology in Ireland. 

Dr. Sparling joined the CBU family in 2005, and saw the opportunity to begin her career at CBU as an unexpected gift. With her research focusing on traditional Gaelic song and dance in Nova Scotia, Dr. Sparling thought there would be no better place to live than in the location of a field she is studying. “My location on Cape Breton Island has made it easier to conduct research but also to participate in the local Gaelic community, and to bring local Gaelic cultural knowledge into the University,” she explains.

Now, Dr. Sparling is embarking on a new journey as a recipient of a D’Arcy McGee Beacon Fellowship. The D’Arcy McGee Beacon Fellowship allows leading Irish and Canadian academics, researchers, and thinkers to connect virtually, enabling Irish and Canadian university scholars to build relationships and establish connections between the two countries. 

The fellowship includes a virtual main public lecture, which Dr. Sparling will deliver on March 10, 2021. The lecture, entitled “Death Culture, Vernacular Memorialization, and Disaster Songs of Atlantic Canada,” will provide an overview of over a decade of research on disaster songs of Atlantic Canada, including interviews with more than two dozen songwriters.  

Dr. Sparling will also provide three small group sessions for undergraduate and graduate students, as well as the community. The session for undergraduate students studying traditional music will look at broadside ballads and contemporary disaster songs, while the session for graduate students will highlight professional skills, such as presenting one’s research, publishing in journals, and writing successful grant applications. The final session will be held for traditional musicians in the community where Dr. Sparling will be comparing the Irish and Cape Breton traditional Celtic music traditions. Dr. Sparling is also exploring the possibility of developing a collaborative student research project this summer with another fellow recipient of the Fellowship. 

Since the D’Arcy McGee Beacon Fellowship is designed for a virtual connection, Dr. Sparling is fortunate that COVID-19 restrictions have not affected the Fellowship. Although her trip to Ireland was cancelled, she hopes to reschedule for a future date, where she will have the opportunity to spend time visiting with her fellow recipients. 

On behalf of Cape Breton University, we would like to congratulate Dr. Sparling on this incredible achievement! 

We would also like to wish her, and the rest of the CBU community, a Happy International Women’s Day!